As vast as the United States are, there’s a staggering number of abandoned towns scattered across the nation. In every state there are towns that have succumbed to changing times. Once hubs of activity, they’re now desolate ghost towns frozen in time.
Many of these towns were settled hundreds of years ago at the onset of the gold rush and the development of new railroads. The majority met their end when the gold mines dried up and when new railroads were built linking larger metropolises and bypassing smaller towns. In the wake of these changes, many of these towns still show signs of the destruction resulting from development and mining of their precious resources.
The life of these towns may have left long ago but just as many of them have interesting histories, backstories and accompanying folklore. These towns may no longer appear on maps (in some cases) but they still live on in our collective minds. The remnants of these long forgotten towns are a reminder of what once was, an eerie reminder that time can erode everything.
It’s possible that the small towns of today will one day succumb to the changing tides of time and the weathered buildings are all that remain of them. It’s hard to believe but based on the ever changing economy, it’s entirely possible that residents will one day choose to move on to more fruitful towns and cities. If these towns are lucky, their uniqueness will ensure that even though their residents are gone, they’re far from being forgotten.
10. Moonville, Ohio
Moonville is a former mining town founded in the 1850s. It was small with no more than 100 residents at its peak. The road leading into the town was very difficult to maneuver which may have contributed to why so few people ventured there unless they needed to. Back then, the construction of a newer, more accessible road was expected but never materialized, making it easy for the town to be forgotten over time. By 1950, the only things that remained in the town were a few abandoned buildings.
A local ghost story began when two trains travelling on the same line hit each other head on. The train dispatcher failed to tell the engineer on one train and a fireman on the other, that there was another train on the track, travelling towards the other. In the late 1800s engineers claimed to see a light shining in the darkness along the railroad, followed by the appearance of a white figure that would disappear just as quickly as it appeared. To this day, people who walk through the abandoned rail tunnel calm to see a ghostly figure approaching.
9. Ong’s Hat, New Jersey
The stories about the origin of this town’s unique name vary but for the most part the folklore centers around a popular male resident whose last name was Ong. He was supposedly known for his stylish attire, his silk hat and penchant for pursuing beautiful women. As the story goes his hat was trampled by an angry, jealous girlfriend. When Ong threw his hat in anger it became snagged in a nearby tree and stayed there for years.
Over the years, Ong’s Hat was all but forgotten until a book by Joseph Matheny titled Ong’s Hat: The Beginning was published. It was based on an early internet conspiracy theory that claimed scientists had managed to open an inter-dimensional gateway to Ong’s Hat, New Jersey. As you can guess it was based on fiction but quickly spread through the media in the 1980s and put Ong’s Hat back on map…so to speak.
8. Ajax, Utah
Unlike other towns on the list that were established due to the benefits of nearby railroads or mining potential, Ajax was birthed for a completely different reason. In 1869 the town grew around a department store (The Ajax Underground Store) that operated underground. Yes, you read that right. It operated much the same way a general store did around the same time and eventually grew to a sprawling 11,000 square feet. The town is named after the owner of the store, William Ajax.
By 1870 the all important post office opened for business (in the underground store no less) and a hotel (above ground) eventually opened up allowing the town to grow further. The population began to wane after the construction of a nearby railroad that allowed residents to easily visit Salt Lake City and above ground businesses began to leave Ajax.
Today, all that’s left to mark the town of Ajax is literally a hole in the ground (and a historical marker).
6. Curry, Alaska
This former town, located in the southern part of Alaska, was once known as Dead Horse. It was eventually renamed Curry to honor Charles F. Curry, a congressman from California. At its peak in 1922, it was a destination for those looking to enjoy the amenities such as fishing and a golf course at the local luxury resort. Popularity of the town was sustained by the close proximity of the railroad which allowed passengers travelling overnight the opportunity to enjoy the town’s only hotel.
However, its popularity began to crumble after a fire left a devastating path of destruction, the hotel burned to the ground and the town was unable to recover from the loss. In addition to this, a boiler explosion destroyed the local power plant and a larger hotel was built in a nearby town.
Today there’s a rail tour that passes through the former town allowing visitors to see what’s left of the once bustling town.
6. Mountain View, Georgia
This town’s original name was Rough & Ready which was actually named after the local tavern. Fortunately, the name was eventually changed to pay homage to the view of Stone Mountain, which was visible from the town on a clear day. Like many of the cities on this list, it was situated close to a rail line which aided in attracting new residents and visitors. However, in addition to rampant corruption within the local government and due to its deteriorating public perception, its city charter was dissolved in 1978.
Today the town is technically not completely abandoned, a handful of residents still reside there despite the close proximity and the noise levels coming from the nearby Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
5. Tahawus, New York
Tahawus was a major player in the iron mining industry. However, that endeavor was abandoned in 1857 due to impurities in the iron, local flooding and the seclusion of the town. Its claim to fame can be traced back to when Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was visiting in 1901. While there, he was notified that current President, William McKinley, was dying of a gunshot wound. Roosevelt later return to Buffalo, NY and was eventually sworn in as president after McKinley’s death.
Today there are 10 buildings still standing, the house that Theodore Roosevelt stayed in during his visit is one of them.
4. Golden, Oregon
Located in southern Oregon, this ghost town is situated near Wolf Creek. Early settlers discovered that the surrounding creek (Coyote Creek) contained gold which ultimately led to the establishment of the mining town. At its peak in 1892, there were approximately 150 people living there. A church, general store and an all important post office were eventually built. When the post office closed in 1920 the population of the town began to decline and residents began a mass exodus out of town.
Today, there are four weather-beaten buildings remaining (the church, general store, carriage house and an outhouse behind it). The town is currently being restored, the project began with rebuilding former structures first. The purpose of the revitalization of the town is to encourage people to visit it.
3. Wastella, Texas
This town was established after a nearby railroad was constructed in 1908. The town is named after the oldest daughter of the town’s original landowner. Even during its heyday, it was never considered a large town but still had amenities such as stores, a school, a hotel and post office for locals to take advantage of.
Due to its proximity to the much larger and populated town of Roscoe and the closure of the post office in the early 1930s (sound familiar?), residents began to leave very quickly. As of 2000 the known population was 4.
2. Grafton, Utah
Grafton is located south of Zion National Park, which is home to Zion Canyon (popular for its observation point). It replaced the town of Wheeler which was completely destroyed by the Great Flood of 1862 and was named after Grafton, Massachusetts. But despite moving the new town a mile away from the site of the original town, flooding continued to be an issue. So it’s no surprise that during the Black Hawk War in 1866, residents moved to nearby towns and decided to stay there after the war ended. Only 4 die-hard families remained in Grafton in 1890.
The last remaining residents finally left in 1944 after the local church closed its doors. In recent years, local associations have begun restoring the town to its former glory. Many of the old structures have been rebuilt leading to the need for continuous surveillance. If you’re looking for a career change, the partnership of organizations is looking for a live-in caretaker.
1. Proctor, North Carolina
It seems to be a theme but flooding was the main culprit behind the desertion of this town. It was flooded by the Fontana Lake and to this day, most of the town is still under water. Parts of Proctor can be accessed if water levels drop low enough.
Before the flooding, the town was a major lumber production hub situated on Hazel Creek. At its peak there were over 1,000 residents living there.
Today, Hazel Creek is considered very isolated and can only be accessed with a boat. There have been guided boat towns to the town in recent years.